Welcome to the new normal, is what we have been hearing from everyone in the past few months. This pandemic has indeed changed every aspect of life. In such a scenario, how could Education stay unaffected?
Starting from primary schools to Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), everyone has moved to online teaching and learning.
On World Teacher’s Day, I would like to take this opportunity to pen down some of my thoughts and experience of online teaching.
As a teacher and researcher at one of the premier research institutions, we have been entrained to give presentations and have discussions on Skype even before the pandemic.
However, interacting with a dozen like-minded researchers is quite different from teaching 50 or more students with different levels of biology training and it is not the same.
I would like to borrow from W.B.Yeats here in stating that, ‘Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire’.
And this is precisely the problem.
We as teachers are not trying to finish our scheduled courses rather aim to kindle an interest in the students to understand the concepts and eventually apply this knowledge as independent researchers.
How can we achieve this, when we cannot see the student or when we cannot assess if each of the students is keeping pace with what is being taught?
From a personal viewpoint, the entire aspect of social interaction and peer support all seems to be lost in this new module of online teaching.
Agreed, that there are benefits, especially with the physical distancing aspect. And the online teaching module also provides the added benefit of taking a class from anywhere and at any time.
But, this has also created some chaos. Since households are now at loggerheads for broadband connectivity, since there are primary school classes, college classes and the parents also have their WFH schedule of meetings and webinars to attend.
Sometimes, it is worrying to think where we are heading with this new normal of constant screen time and sitting at our desks for continuous hours.
As a teacher, I have already mentioned the major hurdle of not having the face to face interaction, which leaves us clueless about how many students require additional support and how well the concepts have been understood.
But, most importantly, the worst hurdle is the internet connectivity issues that hamper online teaching activities. Whereas sometimes this network problems arise because of spontaneous fault in connectivity, the unaddressed problem is that a very small proportion of Indians have an uninterrupted internet connection.
Most of us have to rely on mobile phone networks and these can be quite temperamental.
As we progress through weeks of uncertainty, what is clear that definitely, online teaching is beneficial with respect to flexibility with respect to space and time, but when it comes to individual interaction, especially for a larger batch of students, the online module is a far cry from the ethos of teaching and reaching out to every student.
I would like to end with a quote from Socrates, ‘I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.’
And for that to happen, we must resume our offline interactions as and when it is possible.
Dr. Selvi Bharathavikru is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Berhampur.
She is an avid reader of classics, loves baking, a travel enthusiast and an amateur Veena player.